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Storm Clouds Gather Over Sydney's WTO Ministerial

For immediate release: 10 November 2002

Storm Clouds Gather Over Sydney's WTO Mini-Ministerial

"The first salvos were fired in Sydney today against the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) invitation-only ‘mini-ministerial’ meeting later this week," reports Professor Jane Kelsey of the Action, Research and Education Network of Aotearoa (ARENA).

A seminar on 'Alternatives to the WTO', organised by the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (AFTINET) and sponsored by over 40 major Australian organisations including union, church, development agencies, students, environmental and indigenous groups, was attended by several hundred people.

"Keynote speeches from leading activists in Thailand and the Philippines condemned the WTO’s model of corporate-led globalisation and its contempt for sovereignty and democracy, exemplified by this week’s meeting," Kelsey reported.

"Workshops focused on key issues that are likely to derail next year’s WTO ministerial meeting in Cancun, Mexico, such as what free-trade-in-services means for essential services like water, health and education and for agriculture. Or the impact of zero tariffs on workers and industry; how intellectual property rights deny access to life-saving medicines; debt cancellation and financing of genuine development; as well as the environmental destruction wrought by free trade.

Kelsey says at the workshop she led on investment, "Australians were incensed that the proposed ‘bill-of-rights' for transnational companies known as the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), which was defeated by the OECD in 1998, was being resurrected in the WTO."

"Today’s seminar was a further nail in the coffin of the free trade support propaganda that 'there is no alternative'. Building on years of opposition from around the world, people spelt out demands for international regulation of trade and foreign investment and national policies that put people, not international capital, at its centre."

"This latest attempt by Australia, New Zealand and other free trade evangelists to rescue the WTO’s globalisation agenda will face mounting opposition on the streets of Sydney this week, and on the road to Cancun next year," says Professor Kelsey "Today’s seminar set out the intellectual arguments behind the banners and placards".

Ends: 322 text words

Professor Jane Kelsey from the University of Auckland and the Action, Research and Educational Network of Aotearoa (Arena) is currently in Sydney as an accredited press representative for The Internationalist during the WTO mini- ministerial meeting on November 14 and 15.

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